When last we left our heroes: Preparations for their expedition to the Labyrinth of Crete were menaced by men from an unnamed Ministry, gangsters, and the embarassment of reading serial fiction. Just as Colonel Durant lost his patience, though, his follower drew a gun!
Colonel Augustus Durant had looked death in the face more often than he had shaved. The man from the Ministry who was aiming the gun at him apparently thought it would intimidate the hunter. Durant smirked. If the functionary knew what he was really facing, he would… well, he wouldn’t be facing it any more. Still, Durant didn’t need to call upon that to deal with one troublemaker.
The hunter’s arm shot out with the speed of a cheetah and the grip of a gorilla. The gun was in his hand before the shadow could even think of pulling the trigger.
“Tell Coble that he can harass us all he likes,” Durant growled, “but so long as we’re not breaking any of his damned laws, we’re untouchable!”
The man from the Ministry of Objective Sciences turned and ran.
“Committed the message to memory, then? Damn amateurs.”
Having rooted out his pursuit, Durant put the gun in his jacket pocket and set out home once again.
From a building far above, though, someone else watched the colonel. This one, a bald man in dark monastic robes, went undetected by Durant’s Africa-honed senses, and had for some time.
It was agreed that the Society would leave by way of the Dover ferry.
It hadn’t just been agreed amongst themselves, though… no, at Terranove’s suggestion, the five had made sure to spread the word as indiscreetly as possible. Lord Marston delegated the rail reservations to his butler Montgomery. Mrs. Chatterton purchased new luggage expressly for her European trip across the channel. Durant mentioned to his cigar-seller that he couldn’t get the Hispanolias he wanted at the port in Dover. Even Sir Charles–never the most subtle even when trying not to be–left his marked Bradshaw’s Railway Guide open to the Boat Train schedule everywhere he went.
By the time they were done, anyone who didn’t know they were leaving England by the Dover ferry wasn’t paying attention.
Thus it was that the two men in black suits and top hats found themselves watching the lines in Victoria Station.
“I’ve gotten further confirmation from Mr. Ashbrook,” the first said. “It’s definitely Dover.”
“Hh,” sneered the other. “Too easy.”
“What do you mean?” the first agent, a man named Pearlstine, asked. While the men in black suits were so attired for conformity of appearance, Pearlstine had a good four inches on his partner, Mr. Seymore. Still, it was Seymore who called the shots, and if the shorter man had concerns, Pearlstine knew better than to dismiss them.
“Come now, Mr. Pearlstine,” Seymore explained, like one would to a oblique student. “There are only two trains out of London this evening with continent-bound sea connections. Two hours ago, we received a report from Mr. Ashbrook at the Ministry that there were preliminary indications that they were bound for Dover rather than for Portsmouth.”
“Yes?” Pearlstine asked, nodding with feigned understanding.
“And an hour ago,” Seymore continued, “Ashbrook’s man delivered a message with not one, but two confirmations on the Dover destination. Just minutes ago, the hansom driver assigned to Mrs. Chatterton reported on her intent to cross the Channel from Dover.”
“Indeed,” Pearlstine nodded.
“I tell you, for a crew that Mr. Ashbrook seems to be so concerned about keeping surveillance upon, they’re awfully loose with their lips. Either they’re far too highly esteemed in his eyes or they’re playing us for fools, Mr. Pearlstine.”
Pearlstine understood, but before he could congratulate Mr. Seymore on his tactical analysis, he caught sight of a stocky man in bow tie glasses awkwardly dragging a portmanteau across the platform below. The figure was easily recognizable as one of their targets, the scientist Sir Charles Rutledge Brown.
The platform he was dragging his traveling chest along was the one Pearlstine had been anticipating.
“Mister Seymore?” he asked with only a slight bit of underdog told-you-so, “They seem to be heading to Dover.”
Seymore leapt into motion, racing along the deck to get a better view of the member of the lawless Society for Cryptozoological Research. Pearlstine followed.
As he ran down the stone steps to the platform, Seymore caught sight of Lord Marston as well, stepping onto the Dover train, a valet with an inordinately obvious cart full of bags following him.
Seymore had been at this for a long time. The Portsmouth train was about to leave from a platform only two tracks down from the Dover line. Rather than stop Marston or Brown as they boarded, he led Pearlstine past the track and up the stairs to the overlook beneath the grand clock. From there, the two had a view of the parallel tracks running down the station to the far end.
“There!” he said, stopping momentarily at the painted metal rail to point down at the empty track next to the Dover train. Climbing down the extension step, Lord Marston was holding Mrs. Chatterton’s hand by way of assistance. They may have boarded the Dover train, but they were disembarking from the other side covertly. Down the tracks, Colonel Durant was himself climbing up onto the far platform where the train to Portsmouth was preparing to leave.
Seymore and Pearlstine ran across the observation deck and down the stairs to platform six. Porters were helping the latecomers onto the passenger cars while the engineers blew a final warning whistle. There Seymore saw Victor Terranove looking about nervously before quickly stepping onto the train as steam rose from the tracks below.
“As I told you, Mister Pearlstine,” he smirked as the train began moving away from them down the tracks, “Send word ahead to Portsmouth. I shall inform them of their arrest en route!” Taking to a run, Seymore was able to catch up to the accelerating train and, grabbing the guard rod at the back pulled himself onto the rear vestibule. On the platform behind, Mr. Pearlstine nodded his top hat at his shorter but far more clever partner and turned to report back to the Ministry.
Two hours later, a red faced Mr. Seymore disembarked his train at the Portsmouth Station. A pair of constables greeted him there, ready to arrest the five miscreants who thought they could ignore the orders of the Crown.
“They… they’re not here,” was all Seymore had to say.
In an opulent passenger lounge elsewhere, Victor Terranove held up a silver sixpence coin in his white gloved right hand. His empty left hand he held several feet away.
“You see, Mrs. Chatterton,” he said with his showman’s voice, “the key to misdirection is not simply convincing your audience to look at something you want them to see…”
He closed both hands and moved them back and forth, one over the other. Cassandra watched intently as he did, and despite his impressive slight of hand, she caught it when he moved the coin from his right to his left.
“…but rather to convince them to look away from what you don’t want them to see…” Victor continued, offering both closed fists to the seated lady.
Holding back her smirk, Mrs. Chatterton pointed towards his left hand. Victor frowned a moment, obviously disappointed that his misdirection hadn’t worked. He opened the hand.
There was no coin.
“…even if it’s precisely where you’ve been telling them to look the entire time!”
He opened his right hand. The coin was still there, where it had started.
Sir Charles applauded.
“Right,” Kenneth, Lord Marston, said, raising a crystal goblet up in a toast. Through it he could see the countryside passing by outside the train car window.
“On to Dover, then.”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.